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Nintendo realises that making 3D games is hard, reconsiders plans

File this one under "Probably should have thought about that before you started". Nintendo, a game development company at the cutting edge of handheld 3D games, with a rich and storied history in 2D 8-bit retro gaming, has been having some pretty serious trouble making 2D 8-bit retro games on its cutting edge 3D handheld. If you thought converting old NES games to the 3DS for the downloadable 3D Classics series should have been an easy port, don't worry. Nintendo did too. Apprantly though, it's really bloody hard, as series Director Takao Nakano explains in a recent edition of Nintendo's excellent Iwata Asks developer interview series. I can't help feeling though, that some of the issues making the process so bloody hard should have been really bloody obvious too.

Vertically scrolling shooter Xevious, for example, threw all kinds of trouble at Nintendo when it realised that the effects of having bullets fire at your ship from the ground (easily fudged together in a 2D game by simply laying them on a flat layer over the background) became really disorienting and a bit crap when those layers were simply separated out into 3D. Rather than appearing for be launched from the ground, the bullets suddenly appeared in mid-air on the same plane as the player's ship, forcing the reprogramming of both graphics and gameplay in order to add a firing delay. Same situation in reverse when the player's ship was bombing ground targets. Nintendo President Satoru Iwata estimates that converting a game like Xevious to 3D takes 20 times more work than a normal port.

A 3DS version of the NES' Tennis was scrapped altogether, because it was found that 3D added pretty much nothing in practical terms. The reason? The 2D game created such a decent approximation of a 3D court with the forced perspective of its graphic design that putting it in genuine 3D didn't actually improve anything. And with the ball/racket collision detection needing a full reprogramming once the ball was moving in simulated 3D space as opposed to simply moving vertically across the screen, the port "took as much work as making a tennis game from scratch". And with the 3D being so underwhelming, as Nakano-san explains, "we had to conclude that the resultant value would not be worth our hard work". The moral of this one? Never underestimate the effectiveness of old-school game design ingenuity. What is old is not necessarily broke, and it doesn't always need fixing.

Of course, while I'm not going to pretend that I know more about game design than Nintendo (that way lies only disappointment and a roaring great  smack-down should one ever be asked to prove said madness-claims), I can't help feeling that some of these problems should have been pretty glaring from the off. 2D and 3D games operate completely differently in mechanical terms, even if a 2D game is simulating a 3D environment, so perhaps Ninty should have seen this coming. But if it didn't, perhaps that explains why the 3D Classics series is currently only planned to run to six titles.

Either way though, I fully applaud the initiative, and I really hope Nintendo (and other 3DS devs) continue it as the eShop service matures. 3D SNES games with lots of lovely parallax... Oh how I dream of them...

July 13, 2011

Topics

Nintendo

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24 comments

  • ThatGuyFromTV - July 18, 2011 3:30 a.m.

    I thought they figured out that 3D was a crap gimmick to base a system off of with the Virtual Boy. Really questioning Ninty's judgment with the combination of things in the 3DS. Head-position-specific 3D and gyroscope controls? Yeah, something got a bit lost there. Not sure how Ninty is gonna roll with this one.
  • armerus - July 14, 2011 9:22 p.m.

    Nice, action fighterish screenshot, however is not actually action fighter. Oliver Armitage
  • jmcgrotty - July 14, 2011 11:09 a.m.

    "A 3DS version of the NES' Tennis was scrapped altogether, because it was found that 3D added pretty much nothing in practical terms." This quote seems pretty generic. I am betting that someone at Nintendo has the following keyboard shortcut: "A 3DS version of * was scrapped altogether, because it was found that 3D added pretty much nothing in practical terms." Alethion said "The ball wasn't dropped for those of us that found dozens of great games for the system," but I think this is a typo. (S)He obviously meant "the dozen of us that found great games for the system." TheDigitalG: ""Nintendo realises that making 3D games is hard, reconsiders plans" translates to 'they struggled with a couple of games but managed to find a way?" While maybe gamesradar could have worded it slightly better, it's still a bit accurate. The article itself said that, no, they didn't manage to find a way to make Tennis work. Also, maybe it is reading into the comment more than intended, but the article said "the 3D Classics series is currently only planned to run to six titles." I can't picture that Nintendo wanted to only make 6 titles (in the Classic series). Also, while I'm not going to take the time to research it, I'm pretty sure Nintendo implied before that they had big expectations for the Classic series. Both of these would imply that, yes, Nintendo did reconsider plans. Scammeleon said "Just remake the original Zelda." No, the better solution is to just buy a real NES on ebay for 1/10th the price of a 3DS and play it the way intended. Plus, you now have a system better than the 3DS.
  • Dondada - July 14, 2011 6:53 a.m.

    Its 2011 are people that desperate to play 30 year old games on a "New" system? Nintendo fans confuse me.
  • Oujisama - July 14, 2011 2:56 a.m.

    I cant take Nintendo seriously these days...
  • Scammeleon - July 14, 2011 1:07 a.m.

    Just remake the original Zelda (so that it basically becomes 3D Dot Game Heroes... but more 3D) and enjoy the profit, Nintendo. }:-( Then do Yoshi's Island!
  • Letter11 - July 13, 2011 5:30 p.m.

    "I have a sneaking suspicion that it is harder to create a funny article rather then just a paragraph of straight laced news." @Redeater Well said. Not really a factor for me in deciding to not yet get a 3DS really. As wonderful as the remake's look, I'm looking forward to a stronger library of original games.
  • vadorsoul - July 13, 2011 4:33 p.m.

    Considering that their normal port is a straight rom dump, 20 times longer should be like 3 minutes. Can any one explain to me why they are adding one gameboy game a week? I was really looking forward to the virtual console. If the games are only rom dumps, it literlay takes almost zero effort to upload a game.
  • UsernameLoser - July 13, 2011 4:24 p.m.

    Shit, no 3d LoZ?
  • TheRandomFool - July 13, 2011 3:57 p.m.

    I would compare Nintendo to the Russians during the space race; They might do it first, but the second guy will do it way better. Still, its good that they try.
  • Redeater - July 13, 2011 3:12 p.m.

    @GamesRadarDavidHoughton I salute you sir. I know the saying goes you can't please everyone but when it comes to the web it changes to you can't please anyone! People love to complain about anything on the internet. Take IGN for example. One of the funniest things I have read was a headline asking if PSN was up and running. Clicking on it brought you to a big bold NO!!! Now while IGN isn't known for having any sort of funny bone this article absolutely killed me. But as expected almost ever comment consisted of pissed off fanboys and various other jerks complaining about it. @TheDigitalG I wasn't trying to be a dick but I have a sneaking suspicion that it is harder to create a funny article rather then just a paragraph of straight laced news.
  • therawski - July 13, 2011 3:03 p.m.

    Excitebike 3D which was free looked amazing, I can understand why some games wouldn't work but that one does. I suggest Nintendo just remake some virtualboy titles but in color with new names. Like Teleroboxer 3DS would be pretty sweet. The best game for virtualboy was Wario, why don't they remake that on 3DS? Does Nintendo want to be known for remaking the same damn game, would be better if they remade more of the library and be known for that. Make what we want, they were kids games that we played as kids, so of course we want to play them, just make them, and do it right, you have all this time and money on your hands, stop halfassing classics.
  • GR_DavidHoughton - July 13, 2011 2:59 p.m.

    TheDigitalG: What Redeater said. I have no ill will towards Nintendo at all, and the tone of my main text should indicate that. Poking fun and making jokes though, is just what we do.
  • TheDigitalG - July 13, 2011 2:59 p.m.

    Aye, for the 360, not a PS3 however because I don't own one, thus never read the articles. I love the humour-themed articles, but this seems too serious and sensationalist.
  • Redeater - July 13, 2011 2:18 p.m.

    @TheDigitalG Because it is a humour themed website? Seriously man get over yourself. I'm willing to bet you don't post any defensive comments for articles featuring Microsoft or Sony goofs. Oh which there are many as well.....
  • TheDigitalG - July 13, 2011 2:12 p.m.

    Why is Gamesradar full of these sensationalist articles now? "Nintendo realises that making 3D games is hard, reconsiders plans" translates to "they struggled with a couple of games but managed to find a way"? Nintendo already gets it's share of hatred, plz stop addin fuel 2 fire.
  • wintergnut - July 13, 2011 2 p.m.

    Can't they just release these games in 2D? Just by showing the same image for each eye or imitating turning the 3d slider all the way down?
  • Aletheon - July 13, 2011 1:30 p.m.

    I couldn't care less about these old games being 3D or not. @Flying Machine The ball wasn't dropped for those of us that found dozens of great games for the system. Too bad for you I guess.
  • Rivenscry - July 13, 2011 12:44 p.m.

    Not to be a nitpicker or anything, but you spelled "apprantly" wrong. I believe that you meant apparently? Nice article though. Btw, this is the first time that I've ever read a comments thread where someone hasn't sounded off FIRST. Congratulations everyone.
  • mijetman - July 13, 2011 12:35 p.m.

    It's a crying shame because Excite Bike looked great. Virtual Console seemed like it was going to be really cool. Damn you 1980's programers. Your ingenious problem solving has robbed us of 3D handheld retro gaming.

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